Trudeau moves to shore up Liberal caucus support as SNC-Lavalin controversy continues


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has moved to shore up support in his Liberal caucus as the aftershocks of Jody Wilson-Raybould’s resignation from cabinet rocked both Parliament Hill and members of his own party.

Multiple caucus sources told CBC News that Trudeau convened an extraordinary caucus meeting by telephone Tuesday evening to reassure them that nothing untoward had taken place in his office’s interactions with Wilson-Raybould over the SNC-Lavalin case when she was justice minister.

But unlike the party’s normal caucus meetings, this was a one-way call — with Trudeau doing the talking. Caucus members were not able to ask Trudeau questions. MPs were told to follow up with the PMO or regional offices.

MPs on the call that spoke to CBC News on condition their names not be used said they believed Trudeau when he told them neither he nor the PMO had pressed Wilson-Raybould. 

Multiple MPs also told CBC News that while there was a consensus in caucus that Wilson-Raybould should no longer sit at the cabinet table, there was no justifiable reason to remove the MP for Vancouver-Granville from the Liberal caucus. 

The unusual call to Liberal MPs came as Trudeau’s government scrambled to deal with the aftershocks of Wilson-Raybould’s abrupt resignation Tuesday as Veterans Affairs minister. 

Her resignation came only days after a Globe and Mail report, quoting anonymous sources, said members of the Prime Minister’s Office tried to get Wilson-Raybould to help Quebec construction giant SNC-Lavalin avoid criminal prosecution on bribery and fraud charges through a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA).

The SNC-Lavalin case is before a court in Montreal, charged with fraud and corruption in connection with payments of nearly $48 million to public officials in Libya under Moammar Gadhafi’s government and allegations it defrauded Libyan organizations of an estimated $130 million. Its preliminary hearing is scheduled to resume Friday.

To date, the director of public prosecutions has refused to allow the company to avoid a trial by negotiating a DPA or remediation agreement.

‘I do wish her well’

During the political firestorm that followed the report, Wilson-Raybould refused to comment on the case, saying she was still bound by solicitor-client privilege.

MaryAnn Mihychuk, who served with Wilson-Raybould in cabinet until January 2017, said neither Trudeau nor his staff ever pressured her when she was minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour.

« I made a lot of change and I really pushed the envelope … I never had a call from the prime minister or the Prime Minister’s Office to push me in a certain direction. »

Some Liberal MPs suggested anonymously in media reports that Wilson-Raybould was difficult to deal with and didn’t have friends in caucus. Mihychuk said that’s not the case.

« I feel she’s a good friend and she is an amazing leader so I do wish her well. »

Mihychuk said Wilson-Raybould also worked closely with fellow cabinet minister Jane Philpott, who has supported Wilson-Raybould on social media in the wake of her resignation.

« Jane and Jody were a team right from the start. They were working immediately on assisted dying for Canada, which has been a really terrific program, helping a lot of people. But it was complicated, so they spent a lot of time together. »

Elizabeth Thompson can be reached at


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Brian Gallant moves up departure from helm of Liberal Party


Former premier Brian Gallant says he’ll step down as leader of the Liberal Party earlier than planned.

Gallant said Friday that he will resign at the party’s next caucus meeting, which is scheduled for mid-February, rather than wait until a leadership convention can choose his successor.

« It has become clear that while I still occupy the role of leader, many will be hopeful — and some will be fearful — that I might run again in the next election, » Gallant told a news conference in Moncton.

« Let me be clear I am not running again in the next election as leader of the Liberal Party or to be the MLA for Shediac Bay-Dieppe. »

Gallant wasn’t pressured, MLA says

Discussions are underway on whether the next caucus meeting should be held sooner than mid-February, said caucus chair Jean-Claude D’Amours.

Gallant made the decision to quit on his own and not under pressure, D’Amours said.

« I really respect his decision to decide to not be the leader of the Liberal Party, » he said.  

An interim leader will be chosen at the next caucus meeting as well, but D’Amours hopes party members can elect a new leader as soon as possible. A steering committee of the party will choose a date for the leadership convention, which is to be held in Saint John, he said.

Resignation already announced

Gallant, who tried to form a minority government after the Sept. 24 election, had already announced his intention to resign when his government was defeated in the legislature and the Progressive Conservatives took over.

At the time, Gallant said he would stay on as leader until the party found his successor, which it hasn’t done. On Friday, he suggested that by leaving earlier, he would be nudging the party into getting a new leader more quickly. 

« My hope is that by doing this the Liberal Party will recognize that it indeed needs to choose a new leader and in a time frame that makes sense for the party, » Gallant said.

He also suggested there is some urgency because Premier Blaine Higgs, who has the support of three People’s Alliance members, is governing « like he has a majority. »

« He has given the People’s Alliance all the cards and therefore control of the government’s agenda. »

Former premier says he’ll step down at next caucus meeting 1:10

As a result, Gallant said, the PC government might fall over its first budget, which is to be presented after the legislature reconvenes on March 19.

Gallant said he will stay on as MLA for Shediac Bay-Dieppe for now but wouldn’t say if he would stay until the next election.

He said he will stay neutral on who should be the next Liberal leader.

He became Liberal leader in 2012 and won a majority government two years later, defeating David Alward’s Progressive Conservatives.

Gallant said he has no interest in running at any other level of government. 

At the news conference Friday, Gallant thanked New Brunswickers for the opportunity to serve the province. He said he and his wife will continue to contribute to the betterment of the province, but in other ways.

He has « no plans at the moment. »

Later Friday, Higgs wished Gallant « the very best » in his future endeavours.

He said he didn’t know what to make of Gallant’s allegation he was running the province as if he had a majority. 

Gallant said he will resign at the party’s next caucus meeting scheduled for mid-February. (Shane Magee/CBC)


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Ford government moves ahead with plans to redevelop Ontario Place


Ontario Place is fading into history as the Doug Ford government moves ahead with plans to turn the lakeside family playground into a “world-class attraction” that could include a casino.

The Progressive Conservative government is moving to dissolve the board and corporation that oversees Ontario Place, transferring control of its 51 prime waterfront acres to the province.

The Ford government’s move to dissolve Ontario Place has blindsided people who do business there.
The Ford government’s move to dissolve Ontario Place has blindsided people who do business there.  (Richard Lautens / Toronto Star file photo)

Finance Minister Vic Fedeli was asked Friday on CBC Radio about his government’s plans for the site which opened as a family-friendly theme park in 1971, but was shuttered by the Dalton McGuinty Liberal government in 2012 to save money.

“I think we want to see that become a world-class attraction. We’re going to spend a considerable amount of time looking at what we can do there to make the best use of that jewel,” Fedeli said.

When asked by Metro Morning host Matt Galloway if a casino is possible on the site south of Exhibition Place, Fedeli said: “Look, everything’s possible down there.

“I’m not saying that (casino) is one that has been discussed, because, quite frankly, it’s not one that has come up in my file, but I think we’re going to look at every single possibility to make that a world-class centre, and I would say nothing is off the table.

“We’ve got to start looking at everything. We can’t be afraid to look at a bold vision for the former Ontario Place.”

The Star revealed in September that Ford has a personal interest and plans for Ontario Place, where his Liberal predecessor Kathleen Wynne in 2017 unveiled a $30-million, 7.5-acre waterfront park on the site of a former parking lot.

For now it’s “business as usual” at the site, Ontario Place officials said Friday, with winter activities running from Nov. 23 to March 17, including an artificial skating rink on the West Island, community bonfires, a light festival and films in the Cinesphere.

During his one term as a Toronto councillor — his late brother, Rob Ford, was mayor — Ford envisioned a vast redevelopment for the Port Lands to the east, including the world’s biggest Ferris wheel modelled on the London Eye in Britain and a 1.6-million-square-foot “megamall.”

In 2013, Doug Ford told the Toronto Sun: “I don’t see why we can’t get a casino downtown,” before city councillors rejected Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp.’s casino push amid a strong public backlash. “How can people say ‘no’ to this?” Ford asked at the time.

Downtown Toronto city councillors Joe Cressy and Mike Layton issued a statement Friday saying Fedeli’s comments raise “many concerns regarding the liveability of our city and the use of valued public lands.

“Any potential changes to Ontario Place must be made in the public interest, and must include a rigorous public consultation process. Ontario Place is for all Ontarians,” they said, adding its future must be decided “in public, not in backrooms,” and the city must be involved in deciding the site’s future

“And let us be clear: a casino at Ontario Place does not represent the responsible use of valued public lands. No good can come from it,” Layton and Cressy said.

John Tory, who authored a report on Ontario Place before becoming Toronto mayor in 2014, has not yet been consulted by the Ford government on the site’s future, his spokesperson, Don Peat, said Friday.

“He hasn’t been consulted up to this point, but the Mayor, as he said in September, wants the city and province to work together on the future of Ontario Place,” Peat said. Tory opposes a casino on the site.

Ford’s move to dissolve Ontario Place, meanwhile, has blindsided people who do business there.

Business operator Aaron Binder told the Star’s Francine Kopun that he was shocked by the decision.

Binder, the chief experience officer of a tour company called Go Tours Canada, said that he just opened a third location at Ontario Place this summer, based on the Ontario Place board’s long-term commitment to develop the area into a tech hub and small business entertainment centre.

“We are hoping that the provincial government will continue the operation of Ontario Place, so that my business doesn’t have to lay off the employees that we hired specifically to work at that location,” said Binder.

Go Tours Canada, which has one location in the Distillery District and one in Barrie, offers guided walking tours and tours on Segways.

David Rider is the Star’s City Hall bureau chief and a reporter covering Toronto politics. Follow him on Twitter: @dmrider


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Canada Border Services Agency moves to ‘substantially’ increase deportations


Canada’s border agency is stepping up efforts to deport failed refugee claimants and other foreign nationals not welcome in this country, setting a goal of dramatically increasing deportation numbers by up to 35 per cent.

An email from the director of Canada Border Services Agency’s Enforcement and Intelligence Operations Division, sent Oct. 17 and obtained by CBC News, outlines the plan to ramp up removals to 10,000 people a year.

« Over the last few weeks I have been involved in several discussions both regionally and nationally concerning the Government of Canada’s decision to substantially increase removal efforts including the re-establishment of national and regional targets, a practice many of you may still remember, » Brad Wozny wrote to staff.

« Initial discussions have the agency working towards a new national target of 10,000 removals/year. This would imply about a 25-35 per cent increase over the last couple years. »

CBSA confirmed it has set a national goal of 10,000 removals a year.

Agency spokesperson Barre Campbell said Canada remains an open and welcoming place for people seeking refuge and will continue to treat them fairly and with compassion while expediting removals.

« To ensure that the CBSA is meeting its mandate under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to conduct removals as soon as possible, the agency is focused on increasing overall removal numbers for the current fiscal year and beyond, » said Campbell in an email.

18,000 people on removal list

There are 18,000 cases now in the deportation inventory, most of them failed refugee claimants. Delays in the process can be caused by appeals and legal proceedings, court sentences, a temporary suspension of removals, a lack of valid travel documents, medical issues, or an eligible claimant’s application for a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA), Campbell said.

He said there are now about 5,300 « actionable cases » with no known impediment to deportation.

« While Canada is a humanitarian country that has welcomed many immigrants and asylum seekers over the years, those coming to our country are expected to abide by our laws and processes, » Campbell said. « As these individuals are processed through the asylum system, those whose claims are not eligible are required to leave Canada or be removed. »

The number of deportations fluctuates but has declined dramatically in the last five years, from 18,987 in 2012 to 8,472 in 2017. There have been 6,083 removals so far this year.

The move to increase removals comes as asylum seekers continue to stream into Canada from outside regular border points.

Few asylum-seekers removed

In May, officials said that of the 68,000 asylum seekers who had entered Canada since the beginning of 2017, less than one per cent had been removed from the country — even though a high percentage had been deemed ineligible to stay.

At the time, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said it was too early in the process to expect large numbers of asylum seekers to become subject to removal orders, but added it’s important to speed up the entire determination, appeals and removal process.

Today, Goodale said the CBSA is doing its part.

« We’ve indicated that we have to pick up the pace in terms of that activity, and we’ve provided some extra resources for CBSA to do the work that is necessary, » he said.

This year’s budget allocated an extra $7.5 million to CBSA to ensure that once a rejected refugee claimant has exhausted all legal avenues of appeal, and all administrative requirements are met, he or she can be promptly removed. 

A man removes his belongings from a CBSA truck at a processing centre for asylum seekers at the Canada-United States border in Lacolle, Que. Thursday, August 10, 2017. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel said the government has failed to stem the flow of people illegally crossing in to Canada outside of official border points, leading to excessive pressure on the system. The government also has failed to remove those deemed ineligible in a timely way, she said.

« This shows the lack of seriousness that the government has in terms of this broader issue as well as the lack of a plan, » she said. « So without seeing any sort of concrete plan to reduce demand on the system, as well as how it would be executed, I would say that this is lofty thinking rather than anything sort of real. »

Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, said it should be expected that as the number of asylum seekers climbs, the number of removals also would increase. But she said arbitrary targets set in past have led to removal orders that did not take into account compelling humanitarian factors.

Consider case specifics

« I think that the risk is that we’re going to be seeing more stories in the media of individuals and families where many Canadians would say, ‘Well, this doesn’t make sense, why would we be deporting these people given their individual fact circumstances?’ And yet, that’s very likely to happen, » she said.

The CBSA says it sets priorities for removals. Cases involving national security, organized crime, crimes against humanity and other criminal acts — and failed refugee claimants who arrived irregularly — get top priority. Other failed refugee claimants get secondary priority for removal, followed by anyone else deemed inadmissible, including those who have overstayed travel, work or student visas.

Dench said that under a quota system, border officials tend to focus on the « easiest » removals — such as families and failed refugee claimants — and set aside more challenging cases, such as people with criminal records, because they tend to require more officers to handle each case.

« They get (lower) numbers for the same number of officers, » she said. « So it can distort where the priorities go, in terms of removals, and maybe leads to priorities being different from what most Canadians would consider should be the top priorities. »

Ntebo Ebenezer Awungafac, a human rights activist from Cameroon, has been deemed inadmissible to Canada and now fears deportation. He was affiliated with an anglophone minority rights group that had a splinter that advocated violent resistance, but insisted he was never involved with that wing.

Awungafac said he remains optimistic that Canada will let him stay, and his lawyer is exploring all legal avenues.

« I fear with the work I was doing back home, if I’m going back now with the warrant of arrest I have back home, I will not be alive, » he said.

The email from Wozny said the CBSA also is working on an action plan to improve data integrity and the accuracy of information in the removal system, with updates on arrests, the outcome of hearings and clients who left Canada voluntarily or received status.

Ntebo Ebenezer Awungafac has been deemed inadmissible to Canada and fears deportation to Cameroon. (Louis-Marie Philidor/Radio-Canada)


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Liberal MPP Nathalie Des Rosiers moves to limit government’s overriding of Charter rights


Liberal MPP Nathalie Des Rosiers wants the provincial government to be more transparent about overriding Charter rights.

Des Rosiers, a legal scholar and co-editor of the 1,168-page Oxford Handbook of the Canadian Constitution, said Monday there must be greater scrutiny when governments decide to invoke the “notwithstanding clause.”

Liberal MPP Nathalie des Rosiers is tabling a private member’s bill so Ontarians would be told when any government legislation or regulation may violate their rights and freedoms.
Liberal MPP Nathalie des Rosiers is tabling a private member’s bill so Ontarians would be told when any government legislation or regulation may violate their rights and freedoms.  (Richard Lautens / Toronto Star file photo)

That’s why she is tabling private member’s legislation so Ontarians would be told when any government bills or regulations may violate their rights and freedoms.

It would also force the attorney general to table any legal arguments used to justify such a move.

Premier Doug Ford, elected in June, threatened to use the measure for the first time in Ontario history — to slash the size of Toronto city council — and has warned he “won’t be shy” about doing so again if courts try to thwart him.

“So this private member’s bill, if passed, would oblige the attorney general to inform the house — and to inform Ontarians — about what the possible violations would be of their rights,” she said, noting the Charter is essential in protecting the rights of all: “anyone who is a member of a religious minority, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and Mennonite.”

“I think today we particularly are sensitive to the way in which we must protect the rights of religious minorities throughout the world.”

Hamilton lawyer Wade Poziomka, chair of the human rights section of the Ontario Bar Association, said Des Rosiers’ law could save taxpayers’ money.

“MPPs of every political stripe should support this bill,” said Poziomka.

“When we bring in bills that are unconstitutional and that violate the Charter, we’re inevitably going to find ourselves in litigation, which is lengthy and expensive, wasting taxpayers’ dollars and resources,” he said.

After Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba in August struck down Ford’s bill as unconstitutional shrinking the size of Toronto council from 47 members to 25, the premier threatened to use the “notwithstanding clause” to overrule the court.

The province ultimately did not need to invoke the clause as the Court of Appeal granted a stay of the ruling in September.

Correction: On Oct. 29, 2018, this article was edited from a previous version to reflect that the province did not need to invoke the clause after the Court of Appeal granted a stay.

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie


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Ottawa moves to pardon Canadians convicted of pot possession as legalization takes effect


OTTAWA—Ottawa will move to pardon those with past convictions for pot possession as Canadians wake up Wednesday to a new weed regime.

As Canada becomes the second nation in the world to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, the federal government will announce Wednesday that it intends to move quickly to grant pardons to Canadians with past criminal convictions for simple possession of pot under 30 grams, a senior official told the Star.

The exact details of how Canadians can apply for pardons will be announced in the near future, said the official, who spoke on background in advance of the official announcement.

“For people to whom this applies in their past, we’re going to give them certainty that there will be recourse for them … in terms of exactly how it gets rolled out, the steps that we take, how much time it will take them, we’ll lay that out in the coming days and weeks,” the official said.

The lead ministers on the cannabis file — Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor and Bill Blair, minister of border security and organized crime reduction — will speak to reporters Wednesday morning.

“Canadians continue to have difficulties with employment, rentals and travelling. These barriers are felt even more by marginalized communities including Indigenous peoples,” NDP MP Rachel Blaney (North Island—Powell River) said in question period Tuesday.

Blair, a former Toronto police chief, signalled Tuesday that the government had been waiting for legalization before announcing its next steps.

“We understand the impact that those criminal records have had on people,” Blair said. “At that point in time, we’ll have the opportunity to deal with those records in an appropriate way.”

Legalization, a key plank in the Liberals’ campaign in the 2015 election, is a revolution that’s been years in the making.

And it may be a few days yet before the effects of the relaxed cannabis laws start to be seen — and smelt. That’s because in Ontario at least, storefront locations selling cannabis won’t open until April so for now residents will have to order it on-line for delivery by Canada Post. Postal workers Tuesday announced rotating strikes starting next Monday, which could snarl pot deliveries.

The legalization of cannabis has social and legal implications and for the Liberals, potential political peril if it goes awry with the next federal election now less than a year away.

Liberals privately concede that the year ahead is full of unknowns. How many Canadians will want to try cannabis now that it’s legal? Will legalization truly undercut the black market for marijuana, one of the stated goals for the endeavour? What will be the impact on young people?

On the eve of legalization, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet ministers were quick to tout their rationale for the move, “to protect our kids and to keep the profits out of the pockets of organized crime.

“By controlling it, by legalizing it, we’re going to make it more difficult for young people to access and we’re going to ensure that criminal organizations and street gangs don’t make millions, billions of dollars of profits every year,” Trudeau said Tuesday as he headed into a cabinet meeting on Parliament Hill.

But some are already sounding the alarm. Ontario Premier Doug Ford accused Trudeau of “rushing legal cannabis out of the door” before police have a reliable machine to test for drug-impaired driving.

In a Monday editorial, the Canadian Medical Association Journal cautioned what it called a “national, uncontrolled experiment in which the profits of cannabis producers and tax revenues are squarely pitched against the health of Canadians.”

“I think there’s going to be a lot of unintended consequences that have not been properly thought through,” said Conservative MP Tony Clement (Parry Sound—Muskoka).

“I know that a lot of people psychologically may be ready for legalization. I get that. It doesn’t mean that all of the wheels of justice and of protection of society are in place,” said Clement.

He accused the Liberals of over promising in their vows to cut organized crime, protect children and ensure the readiness of front-line police officers. “I don’t want the public to be fooled into thinking that everything is taken care of,” he said.

But Blair said the federal government has worked with provinces, police forces and other stakeholders to ensure a “strong regulatory framework” is in place for the legal sale of weed.

“For the first time starting (Wednesday) there will be competition in the marketplace and for adult consumers who choose to use cannabis, they will have a socially responsible, safer and legal choice,” said Blair (Scarborough Southwest).

“There’s still a great deal of work to do and to make sure that we achieve our objectives of protecting our kids, displacing that illicit market. That work will continue apace,” he said.

That work — involving several hundred people hired to help administer and enforce the new pot regime, also includes gathering data and educating the public.

Starting Wednesday a new volley of ads will begin about the health risks, targeting parents and young people. And it has promised millions for public health education campaigns.

The advertising started to roll out on 2017 with advertising initially aimed at parents, to guide conversations with children about the risks of pot. A federal official said it then shifted to educating about the road safety risks of using cannabis, before shifting to travel advisories and border issues.

The 2017 budget allocated $46 million and the 2018 budget set aside $82 million over five years for health education ($62.5 million for community-based health promotion, and $20 million for the Mental Health Commission and the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse).

As well, Blair said work continues among federal departments towards the legalization of the sale of edibles, which he said could take another year.

In question period, Clement pressed the government on whether police forces across the country are ready to enforce impaired driving laws.

But one government official told the Star Tuesday that police officers and the courts have been enforcing drug impaired driving offences for decades. “They are well-versed in driving impaired cases. It’s not new,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Police officers who suspect drivers of impaired while under the influence of cannabis will rely on field sobriety tests and in some cases, oral fluid samples. If officers have reasonable grounds to believe a driver is over the legal limit, a 12-step process known as the drug recognition evaluation is done to determine the degree of impairment and the likely drug.

The rate of drug impaired driving was on the rise even before legalization, jumping 10 per cent in 2017 while alcohol-impaired driving offences reported by police declined by 5 per cent, according to Statistics Canada.

Drug impaired driving remained low compared to drinking and driving but federal officials say they are worried that younger people in particular “aren’t quite getting the message” about the risks of driving after consuming cannabis.

Files by Tonda MacCharles and Rob Ferguson

Bruce Campion-Smith is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @yowflier


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Saanich tent city moves again, now back on provincial land


Saanich’s controversial tent city has moved once again.

The encampment, known as Camp Namegans or Namegans Nation, originally set up in Saanich’s Regina Park back in April.

Since then, it has moved several times — first to a Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) property next to Highway 17, then to Goldstream Provincial Park and finally to a piece of private property in the 5000 block of West Saanich Road.

Saanich man says he’s powerless to remove homeless camp that sprung up on his property

The owner of the West Saanich Road property said he hadn’t given the campers permission, but one of his tenants had invited them and he didn’t know how to remove them.

WATCH: Saanich homeless camp moved again

Saanich police say the campers moved again to a new location, again on MoTI property, on Saturday. The new location is also adjacent to Highway 17 and directly behind the Saanich Fire Department.

Police said they had notified the ministry and will “provide them with support if/when requested,” according to a media release.

READ MORE: Homeless campers living in Goldstream Provincial Park must leave by October 2

Police also said that because the camp is on provincial land, Saanich’s Parks Management and Control Bylaw, which allows overnight camping in Saanich parks from 7 p.m. to 9 a.m., does not apply.

The department said a hygiene station that includes washrooms, showers and storage space remains open at Saanich Municipal Hall.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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